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Stuckart says police contract proposal needs work

Sat., Jan. 4, 2014

Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart says it’s time city leaders renegotiate the proposed labor deal it struck months ago with the Spokane Police Guild.

The four-year contract with the city police union was agreed to by Mayor David Condon, and he has stood by the agreement even after it was rejected by the council in November. The deal was reconsidered by the council last month, but council members decided to delay a vote until February.

Stuckart said that although a majority of council members are willing to accept the proposed 2 percent annual raises retroactive to 2012 called for in the contract, most believe the deal does not create adequate oversight to investigate alleged officer misconduct.

In a letter he presented to the mayor’s office Thursday, Stuckart said the deal “does not satisfy the demands of the City Charter.” He was referring to a portion of the charter approved by 69 percent of voters last year that says the police ombudsman should have the power to independently investigate officer misconduct. Currently, the ombudsman observes and participates in the police department’s own investigations into misconduct but can’t conduct his own.

Condon has proposed giving a citizens’ police-oversight board power to hire an independent investigator if they object to how the police department has conducted an examination, rather than give that power to the city’s ombudsman. The Spokane Police Guild hasn’t said if it objects to Condon’s proposal.

Councilman Steve Salvatori said he is ready to approve the contract and ombudsman rules as proposed if the guild simply agreed not to sue over them. He added, however, that he would also support the stronger language about independent oversight described in Stuckart’s letter.

Councilman Mike Allen said that with a few minor changes to the deal, he, too, would be ready to support it if the guild agreed to Condon’s proposal.

“The model the mayor has brought forward includes unprecedented access for citizen oversight,” Allen said.

But Councilman Jon Snyder said he agrees with Stuckart’s letter that the ombudsman should be given independent investigative authority within a guild contract.

Snyder has said pay raises called for in the contract are too high, though he says he will “consider the whole package.”

“The pay raises as they are make it harder to swallow oversight that is not as strong as it should be,” Snyder said.

City spokesman Brian Coddington said the guild and city are in mediation and that Stuckart’s letter is under review.

“We’ll consider all the options listed in the letter,” Coddington said.

Under state law, if the city and guild are unable to reach a deal, contract terms would be set by an arbitrator. City officials have hesitated to risk arbitration in recent years, arguing that they would likely have to pay more than what they already negotiated.

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